This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Mona Khauli (from Lebanon; instead of leaving her country to seek peace, she chose to stay at great risk. She testifies of God's miracles.), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
... we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)
These words are so rich and meaningful; yet they are so difficult to put into practice.
To glory in tribulation? How can this be? It is neither human nor tactful to rejoice in suffering, especially when it concerns people around us. What does Paul really mean?
The best way to explain is to quote a Christian woman in my country. Lebanon. She was facing one family hardship after another. When asked how she managed to cope with all these hardships she answered: 'Troubles are challenges to me. Even difficulty that comes my way is a perpetual source of wonder. I am so eager to see how the Lord will get me out of it.'
She had found the secret. Not theoretically but through pains and problems. 'In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us' (Romans 9:37). Her secret was Paul's secret. Paul's experience became her experience. What about you?
It is no secret what God can do; what he has done for others He will do for you.
A moment of introspection: If we are honest with ourselves, we might admit having stumbled over Paul's comments quoted above, in our own Bible study. We may well have considered Romans 5 or Romans 9 from a theoretical vantage point; but the Bible does not ask to be relegated to the theoretical. The truth of God's Word is experienced most vividly through "pains and problems", as discovered by a nameless Lebanese woman. How that woman would have thrilled to know the power of 1 Peter 4:12-19 in her own life:
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" 19 So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
As the reality of oppositional persecution comes to the Church in America, we may come to learn what it means to "...glory in tribulation", to "rejoice in our sufferings"--to "not be surprised" when painful trials and suffering draw near us. Peter understood what Paul wrote to the church in Rome. They shared a common understanding of the reality and truth of Christ's portentous promise to His disciples (John 15:18-21). Two street preachers in Florida martyred while sharing the gospel, a young teenager for Muslim background who lives as a Christian in fear for her life in Ohio (with threats of mortal harm from her Muslim parents), more Christians in the United States who are counting the cost of believing in Christ, while many, many more Christians around the world bear the marks of the world as scars yet signs of their identification with a Savior who "...became obedient to death--even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name." (Philippians 2:8b-9)
In the face of persecution, God's Word solaces us: "4 I tell you, my friends, do not fear..." (Luke 12:4, ESV), "7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God," (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV), and finally, "15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 (ESV)). God cares for each of us, and does not intend us harm; yet He does now, perhaps more so than in the past, want us to understand that the Christian life may well bear a cost as well as a blessing. Let us all be “eager to see how the Lord will get [us] out of our troubles and challenges.”